AUC Students on the Onset of Winter: “It’s Almost Like There Is Something Wrong With the Day”

By Anna Debeye

Collage by Maria Mazurek

— The last weekend of October marked the end of daylight saving time in the Netherlands. At 2 a.m. clocks were set back to standard time, allowing AUC students to sleep (or party) for one extra hour. The transition allows for increased daylight in the morning and reduced daylight in the evening, a change that impacts our internal biological clocks and which has not gone unnoticed by the students of AUC. Although opinions on winter vary, the return of darkness is harsh on everyone – how do students feel, now that the warmer seasons are behind us again? 

Mara Ucelniece, a second-year Science student from Latvia, says that the lack of light in her street-facing room makes her anxious and frustrated. “At home, [winter is] white and shiny and it feels a bit magical; here it feels gloomier.” The seasons do not change in the Netherlands, she explains; rather than having different weather conditions throughout the year, it is windy and rainy until summer comes around. Ucelniece enjoys spending most of her time outside, so the current autumn weather is a hindrance: “I need to find a new safe haven to do anything,” she says. Her solution is to change her surroundings; she explains that going to volleyball practice or having a study session in a common room or at UvA usually decreases her anxiety. Despite making a habit of leaving her room, Ucelniece says that winter is a time of seclusion for her, in which the AUC bubble becomes even smaller. 

Mara Ucelniece. Photo by Maria Mazurek.

Anicca Sullivan, a third-year Social Science student, also describes winter as an indoor time. However, she says that this is not necessarily something negative: “It forces you to make your room really cosy.” The Christmas lights that can be found throughout Amsterdam are another positive aspect of winter: Although biking through winter weather is not Sullivan’s favourite activity, it allows her to enjoy the lights around the city. She admits that the early darkness is quite frustrating and describes how it is easy for your room to become your comfort hole during winter, making it especially important to go outside. “Every time I go out I feel very refreshed and rejuvenated,” she explains. She also considers the daylight lamps in the Academic Building to be a good initiative for reducing the negative effects of winter such as seasonal depression, though she has not used them herself.

Second-year Humanities student Hasan Misirlioglu also mentions the daylight lamps, but believes the best way to adapt to winter is to change your daily routine. The early onset of darkness disrupts his day and leaves him confused: “When it gets dark before dinner time, it’s almost like there is something wrong with the day,” he says. Walking to class in the dark of the morning and having reduced hours of daylight are two aspects of winter he does not look forward to. Yet Misirlioglu does not hate winter; conflicted about describing it as joyful, he says he does find winter quite cosy and prefers it over summer. However, in his home country of Turkey, this season is different from the constant cold and wind that characterises Dutch winter. “Winter here is a lot more difficult,” Misirlioglu says, his main complaint being that dressing according to the weather is almost impossible in the Netherlands. 

Maria Wolczyk, a second-year Humanities student, also finds winter in the Netherlands to be  challenging: “The surroundings are foreign and this makes it more difficult to cling to something when everything goes grey and lifeless.” She finds the darkness of the afternoon to be quite cosy, but dislikes the bleakness of the day as it is dreary and does not contribute to her energy levels. Unlike Misirlioglu, Wolczyk says that it is best not to change your habits during winter. Rather than staying home all day, she prefers to keep up her usual routine, despite this being overwhelming at times. Since winter weighs her down and leaves her feeling blue, the high intensity of AUC classes in winter can be quite tough. “I would prefer it if during the winter [classes] wouldn’t be as intense, but obviously this is unfeasible,” she says.

Hasan Misirlioglu and Maria Wolzyk. Photo by Maria Mazurek.

First-year Social Science student Julia Kowalczyk also mentions the topic of education in winter, saying, “It is not very suited to the natural clock.” Despite her love for education, she thinks students would function better if classes started later. Being from Poland, Kowalczyk has not yet experienced winter in the Netherlands and was disappointed when a teacher informed her that snow has become rare in the country. A fan of snow, the notion of a rainy winter is upsetting; nevertheless, it is important for her to go outside and enjoy some winter activities, especially those that cannot be done in summer. Returning to Poland for Christmas is what truly makes winter pleasant for Kowalczyk, since she will be able to see both her family and friends again for the first time since coming to AUC. This aspect of winter brings her comfort during this new chapter of her life.  

Julia Kowalczyk. Photo by Maria Mazurek.

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